The Cincinnati Reds have a whole lot of players that seem to be vying for very few spots on the 26-man roster this spring. Among those spots that are up for grabs could be a backup infield spot and perhaps two spots as a backup outfielder. There are about 10 players playing for those three jobs, though. Unfortunately for the Reds, there may be four jobs available, at least in the short term. Eugenio Suarez injured his right shoulder in a swimming pool accident and underwent surgery on Tuesday to have loose cartilage removed. There’s a chance that he may not be ready to play when the season begin on March 26th when the Reds open up against the St. Louis Cardinals.
There’s a chance that Eugenio Suarez will be ready to go when the season starts, but that’s just under two months away. While he showed that he’s basically Wolverine in his ability to heal last season, returning in less than two weeks from a broken thumb, this is going to take a little bit more time. It doesn’t sound like he will miss much of the regular season, if he misses any of it, but the Reds are making plans just in case.
Fortunately for them, they have a lot of different options. We should start out by noting that Nick Senzel isn’t being considered as the third baseman. He’s also going to be coming back from shoulder surgery to start the year, and his injury was considered more serious than that of Suarez. That doesn’t necessarily take Senzel out of the equation, though. It’s certainly possible that he could slide to second base, while Mike Moustakas slides to third base until Suarez comes back.
Depending on how long the Reds would expect Suarez to be out to begin the season could come into play. If he were only going to miss the bare minimum time frame, they could just opt to keep Moustakas and Senzel at their expected positions of second and center, and slide Josh VanMeter, Kyle Farmer, or Alex Blandino into the starting role at third base and call it a day.
However it plays out, if Suarez is out to begin the year that is, there’s going to be a spot opened up on the roster. While you never want someone to be injured and that’s why you get your opportunity, it could be a big opportunity for someone.
Players who seem to be on the fringes of roster contention would include Phillip Ervin, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Mark Payton, Scott Schebler, Josh VanMeter, Alex Blandino, and Kyle Farmer are all potentially fighting for a few spots in that extra infielder/outfielder space. Spring training shouldn’t be used to determine jobs, at least spring training stats – they aren’t reliable or indicative of what to expect moving forward into the season. But just because it shouldn’t happen, and somehow we all seem to know this, it happens.
It may not just be about the open roster spot, though. A player could wind up making the roster for a specific role that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Depending on how things play out with who fills in at third, it could change how the bench will be filled out. Maybe Josh VanMeter’s ability to play first, second, third, left, and right field really gives him the leg up. Maybe Alex Blandino’s glove work at third and second base, with the ability to back up at shortstop is now more important than it was this past weekend?
Whether any of that matters or not, we won’t know for a while. But if it does, even a short opportunity given to someone could change their season, or even career. A strong spring by one of these players could get them on the roster – a chance they may not have otherwise gotten. And if they can take advantage of any playing time they would get, it could be someone else that gets optioned back to Triple-A when Suarez returns. Maybe it gives the Reds extra wiggle-room on Mark Payton, a Rule 5 pick who can’t be sent down. Perhaps it leads to Aristides Aquino getting at-bats that he would have otherwise lost after the signing of two free agent outfielders in the offseason. There’s a whole lot of ifs-and-buts in the scenario. And heck, it might even be a scenario that won’t even exist in two months time. The possibilities, though – they are almost endless with the roster that the Reds have built.